ONE of the country's most senior trade union officials has called on politicians to "refrain" from accepting further pay hikes.
SIPTU president Jack O'Connor said the public sector pay talks, scheduled to begin this week, must focus on restoring pay for lower paid workers.
He said the abolition of the pension levy and lifting of the recruitment moratorium in certain sectors will be the priority of union negotiators.
Mr O'Connor would not be drawn on reports that the Government is allocating €250m to €300m for pay restoration. But he said the focus must be those on low incomes.
Asked whether politicians should also receive pay increases, as suggested by Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin, Mr O'Connor replied: "I think that people in public life, at that level, should refrain from taking pay increases."
He also said he will not take a pay increase as SIPTU president. Mr O'Connor's pay is benchmarked against the public sector, therefore he is likely to be entitled to an increase in his pay if such an approach is agreed at the talks.
But he said he would not be in receipt of a pay rise, suggesting that he would instead use the money to campaign for fairer pay conditions.
Mr O'Connor made the remarks at the Labour Party James Connolly Commemoration in Arbour Hill cemetery.
They come as the Government prepares to accede to demands to reduce the deeply unpopular public sector pension levy as it prepares to enter crucial talks with unions aimed at thrashing out a new pay deal.
Senior Coalition figures last night admitted cutting the levy, which averages 7.5pc of salaries, is a "likely option" because it will result in an increase in take-home pay in the public sector.